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Henry's Highlights
Thursday, May 20, 2004

By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner of Greenville Cable 7

Gauntlet ahead for matters of the heart


Don’t light the victory cigar yet but this week's votes in the North Carolina Senate in favor of East Carolina’s Cardiovascular Institute put the project on the front burner for this session of the legislature.

The good news is that the bill passed the Senate almost unanimously on two separate votes, 46-1 on Tuesday and 44-1 on Wednesdaye. The bad news is that it has little chance of passing the House of Representatives in its present form.

More of the competitive rhetoric that ended the hopes of the project’s chances last year ensued immediately after the Senate passed the bill on Tuesday.

Democratic House Speaker Jim Black, who has been hard at work devising a unique and tricky funding plan of his own, felt Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight was trying to quickly get something through the Senate in hopes of forcing the hand of representatives in the other chamber.

Black was quoted in Wednesday’s News and Observer saying, “That’s sort of in-your-face stuff to me,” referring to the speed at which Basnight pushed the bill through the Senate.

Basnight is indeed trying to set the tone for the debate after living through much criticism of the way the 2003 session ended. He feels he was misunderstood by putting in $180 million for Chapel Hill’s cancer center and totally leaving out the Greenville hospital in his final bill of the session. Basnight explains that move by saying he was told by people in the House that is the only way the bill would pass.

The Senate leader from Dare County has gone out of his way to make people in Greenville aware that he is totally behind the project this time around.

Here are the two practical obstacles the ECU center still faces in the coming weeks in the legislature:

  1. Many members of the house, including Speaker Black, have said they will support the ECU and UNC-CH projects as long as there are other projects across the state to go in the same bill. Black wants a genetics analysis center in his home district at UNC-Charlotte and a project for UNC-Asheville reported by some to be a basketball arena. Additionally, the Black Caucus has asked that a proposed pharmacy school at Elizabeth City State also be included in the bill. Basnight’s bill only included funding for the previously-deliberated ECU and Chapel Hill initiatives.

  2. How will it eventually be funded? Black has not given up on his creative but controversial idea of using state property as collateral to fund a bond to be used to build the centers. According to prominent Senators, his plan is risky and unproven and will not be simplified in time to be used in this session. On the other side, many new House Republicans have signed a no new taxes pledge and they say that Basnight’s bill will require additional revenues in the next few years that they aren’t willing to raise taxes to provide. Even though the Senate bill uses Certificates of Participation funding, interest and debt payments will escalate in coming years.

Related Items:

Most observers have predicted East Carolina University's planned Cardiovascular Diseases Institute and UNC-Chapel Hill's proposed Cancer Center will sink or swim together... More...

Purple Alert Archives


What the Senate bill does provide is a good backdrop for a coming debate in the next few weeks. It is obvious that efforts on the part of ECU, including the Purple Alert program, and face-to-face visits with legislators in recent weeks spearheaded by advocates from the university and the Greenville Chamber of Commerce have made a big difference in turning up the volume for politicians on this project.

What will likely happen next is a bill from the House which deals with the needs and concerns of that chamber as stated above.

The best hope for passage of legislation to fund ECU’s heart center this year will come once that bill has been passed and a conference committee made up of Senators and House members is appointed to hammer out a compromise that will hopefully be voted on and accepted in both chambers.

Remember, legislators are committed to ending this session by the Fourth of July. That will be here before you know it.

No campfire chorus for Dr. Ballard

When rumors circulated late last week that new ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard was going to name Oklahoma Associate AD Rick Hart as the Director of Athletics at ECU there was a firestorm of criticism throughout Piratedom.

No matter which side of the debate you were on, you have to admit the whole incident was a bit bizarre.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about it is how fast the honeymoon ended for the new Chancellor. After two years of one unfortunate mess after another, it seemed everyone, regardless of their particular concern, was hoping that the hiring of the new Chancellor would mean the end of an ugly era.

A moving on point. A passing of the torch. A reuniting.

A friend jokingly said to me today: “I guess when Ballard arrives we won’t be holding hands and singing Cum-by-ya after all.”

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02/23/2007 10:13:35 AM

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